Australia must take sexual assault on campus seriously

By Liu Lulu Source:Global Times Published: 2018/5/28 22:53:39

According to an Australian Human Rights Commission survey, 1.6 percent of students experienced sexual assault in a university setting in 2015 or 2016, and based on student enrollment data, that equates to more than 22,000 students. An appalling figure, isn't it? But this is exactly what is happening in Australia, a country known as a safe and sunny place to study.

One in five victims were international students, the survey highlighted. Without adequate support from the university, international students can be particularly vulnerable. Leu, a Chinese girl studying at the prestigious Australian National University, shared her terrible story with Al Jazeera's documentary 101 East. "What we thought back then was Australian law only protects Australians. And if we report things like this, they would probably think we are causing trouble for them and we probably would get deported, not finish school," Leu said. She was explaining what held her back from pressing criminal charges against her alleged attackers.

International students make the long journey to Australia for advanced education and a laid-back campus culture. Enthusiastic and highly anticipating their new life in the "safe" and "sunny" country, they were welcomed by a campus culture featuring heavy drinking, bullying and sometimes sexual harassment.

Worse still, these international students, in most cases, cannot get adequate support from universities and local authorities when attacked. "Next time, just be careful." This is the only comfort Leu received from a policewoman after she eventually decided to report the incident. No one is paying the price for raping this poor Chinese girl. It seems no one cares about it.

Despite repeated requests for stronger laws and better protection for international students, the Australian authorities act nonchalantly. Cases where international students, especially those from Asia, get vilified, attacked or even raped are frequently reported. No effective actions have been taken so far even after the Chinese government issued a rare public safety warning last year after three Chinese students were attacked for declining a request for cigarettes.

The bullying culture on Australian campus reflects the serious problems facing Australian society. The country is expected to act as a world leader in equity and human rights, but the reality is to the contrary. For international students, such repeated insults, assaults and incidents of sexual abuse amount to serious infractions of fundamental human rights. Is this the way a civilized society is supposed to act?

Time is needed for Australia to make a difference. International students should raise awareness of self-protection and play a more important role in the #Metoo campaign. In the meantime, we hope Chinese international students take these bullying incidents into consideration before leaving for Australia.

International education is Australia's third-largest export industry and pressure from Chinese students may prompt the Australian government to take action.

Posted in: OBSERVER

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